Like a lot of companies around the world right now, Jostle’s employees are all working remotely.
In a lot of ways it’s been relatively painless. As you may or may not know, our intranet platform makes remote work a heck of a lot easier, and we’ve been relying on it now more than ever to stay connected with each other.
But with an entirely remote workforce comes a whole host of new challenges, as I’m sure you’ve discovered yourself. We’ve certainly run into a few of them along the way.
We’ve been doing some thinking as an organization about how to navigate the pitfalls of remote work, and we thought we’d share our findings with you as well.
This is the second part of Jostle’s remote work diary (the first was all about video calls). In this edition we’re talking about those unavoidable, inevitable remote work interruptions!
Remote work diary, part 2: Interruptions
By now you’re probably well acquainted with the numerous ways in which you might be interrupted while working from home. I’m talking about kids yelling, babies crying, partners walking by with their shirt off, dogs running into frame, cats jumping on top of your keyboard, and all kinds of other unwanted intrusions to your work day.
I mean, if it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. Oh, it will.
I’ve personally dealt with neighbors knocking on my door in the middle of a Zoom call and a rogue cat wandering into frame to distract my entire team from whatever it was I was trying to say. (No doubt it was something brilliant.)
The point is, working remotely is all about finding ways to prevent these interruptions. Since we’re on the topic of cats, let’s start there.
For those of you with pets, don’t feel like you can’t take a break to take your dog for a walk, throw a ball of string for your cat, clean your hamster’s cage, feed your boa constrictor, or talk to your goldfish. After all, your pets are thrilled that you’re home all the time (especially the goldfish), so give them some attention throughout the workday.
Tuckering them out goes a long way towards preventing those unexpected bursts of energy when you’re in the middle of a video call with your CEO.
One strategy to stay productive and give your pets occasional love is to set an alarm or alert on your phone. Work two hours, spend fifteen minutes playing fetch with the dog. Work two hours, spend ten minutes fooling your cat into chasing a laser pen. That sort of thing. I know a lot of people are reluctant to take a break when they’re in work mode, but if not for you, take one for your pet!
If you’re working from home, chances are your partner is too. Finding the best way to stay productive while working remotely together is going to be very important (and challenging).
If you each have a private home office, that’s ideal of course, because you can sequester yourselves in opposite wings of your palatial estate and, I assume, have your meals delivered throughout the day by your live-in staff. But since most of us live in closer quarters, staying productive is all about sharing and creating space for ourselves and our partner.
In my experience, working in a relatively small apartment with my partner means being flexible about where work gets done. If one of us has an upcoming call, we’ll give each other a 5-minute heads up so we can relocate to a quiet corner of the apartment. If we’re both on a call, one of us might have to take our call from a closet (camera-off of course).
No matter which of us is on a call, we both wear noise-canceling headphones, which I can’t recommend enough.
We both start and end work around the same time and we like to cook together and go on walks around our neighborhood, so our schedules line up rather well. Depending on your situation, this may or may not be possible. If your partner wraps up before you and is adamant about listening to a podcast or watching Netflix to unwind after work… well, that’s what those headphones are for.
If you’re a parent, you know how challenging it can be to work when you’re also trying to take care of your kids. The parents at Jostle have definitely dealt with a ton of those interruptions. Happy interruptions, sure, but interruptions nonetheless.
Granted, not all interruptions are unwelcome. Some are just endearing. For instance, a colleague’s son running into frame, waving hello to everyone, and running off. Cute, right? But it’s also true that small, innocent intrusions can and do break our flow. And if left unchecked, our 8-hour workday can quickly turn into a 14-hour workday (and no one wants that).
I asked Dustin, Jostler and father of two young boys, to say a little about what those interruptions are like for him. He also offered a few takeaways for the parents out there struggling to work and parent simultaneously.
Some great advice there. To recap:
1) Set up a dedicated office room, preferably with a locking door. This is perhaps the best way to help keep kids at bay. If you go this route, it’s helpful to explain that this is an off-limits area of the house.
Pro-tip: If you don’t have a room in your home that could double as an office, don’t fret. Some parents have had success with a visual aid, like a literal do-not-disturb sign, to signal that they aren’t to be bothered.
2) Keeping your work routine intact can help internalize “working hours” for kids who are thrilled that you’re home all the time now. This might include wearing your standard work attire as a visual queue that you’re working.
3) Share the childcare load with your partner if you can. It takes a village to raise a child, and the same goes for when you’re working from home. This takes a lot of coordination, especially if you’re both working from home all day, but it’s essential.
4) Take frequent breaks to play with or attend to your kids, but be strict about when the break begins and ends. I cannot emphasize this enough: use this time to be with your kids. It’s a stressful time for all of us right now, and kids tend to bring joy back into our lives. So try to enjoy this time as much as you can. This same advice goes for partners and pets, too!
Well, I hope you found the second part of our remote work diary useful. We’re publishing this series every few weeks, so stay tuned for more. In the next installment I’ll be talking about the best ways to create and maintain a productive remote work routine.
We’d also like to hear from you. What are some of the challenges your organization is facing as it transitions to remote work, and how are you overcoming them? Let’s all share our favorite tips and get a little better at working remotely!